Saturday, April 19, 1997

Buck the Sea Lion

During 6 months on a Galapagos Island, tagging turtles I had built up quite a relationship with some of the wildlife. A one legged Lava gull relied on my fishing for much of its sustenance, and a family of Pelicans sat next to me when I fished (nicking most of my catch).

In April, a young male Sea lion (that I named “Buck”) started to frequent the beach and watch my comings and goings. He didn’t let me approach too close when he was sunning himself on the sand – so we kept our distance from one another, but he always appeared grateful when I threw him some scraps from my fishing.
This had gone on several weeks when a storm threw up a bit of swell and I went out to enjoy a bit of body-surfing. To my surprise, Buck came in to join me. Tentative, at first, after a while he was surfing at my side, pushing me and steering me through the waves (probably horrified at my ineptness!). The ice was broken, and we enjoyed several more surfing sessions over the coming weeks until one day he decided to move on. I missed his company

Friday, April 18, 1997

Smuggled into the Khyber Pass

Travelling 3rd class by train, from Karachi on route to Peshawer, we had been befriended (and rescued) by Manzoor. He couldn’t do enough for us, putting us up for a night at his half-built house and then driving us around the North West Frontier and through the tribal area of Darra. Darra is a smuggling centre for guns, drugs and all black market goods. A real dive.

We were keen to see more of the ‘tribal lands’ and, if possible, the Khyber Pass while we were staying in Peshawer. However, the authorities were stopping all foreigners because Russian troops had been in the area the day before. No worries, Manzoor had lots of friends and one, ‘Princy’, knew a well respected ‘black-marketer’, an Afrida Headman and managed to smuggle us around a check point to this blokes house.

The tribal areas are scary places. They are virtually autonomous with a Wild West 'rule of the gun'. Manufacture and trading of arms and smuggling seemed the principal activity. Everyone armed to the teeth and living in fear.

The 'family strongholds' are mini-forts. Mud brick construction, with watch towers - forbidding places. On arrival at 'ours' Frances was taken away to cook chappattis with the women - us men fired a few rounds from the headman’s locally made 7mm rifle. (Frances, on hearing the shots, was convinced that I had been shot!)
The following day we left for the Khyber Pass proper with Princy and his friend. We were lucky to get there - thanks to our Afrida who was well known and persuaded the authorities. The Khyber Pass is a real fortress - both natural and full of Pakistan and old British gun emplacements. Smuggling tracks are everywhere. Mules are trained to make their own way across the border, loaded with goods.

Amazing place - from the top you could see the snow capped peaks of the Afghan hills

Thursday, April 17, 1997

Slow Train to Wau

I caught the Train from Khartoum to Wau 3rd Class – the ‘Slow Train to Wau’. And slow it was, often at walking pace, preceded by a guard checking tracks for damage and sand cover. There were a few break downs on the way, too – spent most of one day at Babanusa with the engine in pieces.

The third class carriages were unbearable. I decided to take my chance on the roof, where I spent almost all the journey (6 days) – squatting and chatting (gesticulating) with a roof full of Dinka tribesman, sleeping head to toe across the camber of the roof – too crowded to fall off as the train rocked on at a few miles an hour.At one stop at a village, some hopeful Dinka travellers tried to clamber onto the already crowded roof of the train. A bit of a barny ensued. The soldiers disembarked from the military carriage and lined the train to prevent any more attempts. The Dinks didn’t much like being told what to do by the Sudanese (Arab) army. One shot a guard with his home made rifle. Only a slight cut on the head but the tense stand-off lasted for several hours. Spear wielding Dinks lined up against rifle toting army, glaring at each other.

I was relieved when the whistle blew and the train started to chug on before a full scale war could erupt.

Baboon Hunt at Tabaan

I had been working with a UNICEF Hand-Pump crew for a week or so, travelling around Southern Sudan in an old Bedford Truck

The Chief and Elders at the village of Tabaan suggested we might all enjoy a ‘Bush Roast’ to celebrate the new hand-pump that we had installed. Consequently, I joined a small hunting party armed with nets and spears. We spent all night and caught one baboon (well, I didn’t, they wouldn’t trust me to do anything but watch)

The following morning, They set up a rush screen in the village ‘green’ to shield a shallow bowl of water to allow me to wash. With the privacy of the screen, I stripped off for a full (and much needed) body wash – unfortunately, I slipped on the soap, crashed through the screen, and, to the delight of the entire village that had gathered to watch, lay sprawled naked (and very white).

I won’t forget Tabaan!

Sting Ray Chouda

Spending 6 months on a Galapagos Island, tagging Turtles does strange things to the mind. Writing articles for a spoof magazine “The Quinta Playa Gazette” helped to while away the time – as did building an English Pub out of drift wood and whale bones! This was titled “QP Angling Corner”

A technique has been developed on location at Q.P. (Quinta Playa, Isabella Island, Galapagos) for the exploitation of the relatively abundant supply of Sting Rays. This has resulted in an important addition to the Q.P.pot and has proved a valuable and nourishing source of protein.

The question of harnessing this food source has puzzled GG (Galapagos Graham) for some time, but many earlier attempts met with failure. In late March GG tragically lost the only machete at QP after plunging it deep into a ray and watching it swim out to sea. Not to be beaten a spear was then fashioned from a mangrove branch and in early April this, too, failed – being snapped in two by a particularly strong

On the 30th April (with replacement spear and Machete, (courtesy of the ‘Burro Express’) success at last arrived as the new, complex, and somewhat primitive technique was rewarded with the first Ray some 40” long and 26” wide. The technique used is fairly basic and can be carried out by any turtler of reasonable intelligence, if these few steps are followed.
1. Find a ray
2. Standing seaward of ray in shallow water, move cautiously forward
3. With legs astride to afford perfect balance and to avoid stinging tail, plunge spear home
4. Hold machete high above head and swing strongly to severe poisonous tail
5. Using club fashioned from drift wood, hammer spear home (4 & 5 can be undertaken in reverse order depending on circumstances)
6. Manoeuvre Ray shoreward being careful not to dislodge spear and allow tail-less ray to escape (they are buggers)

This technique has proved highly successful and ‘Sting Ray Chouda’ has become a favourite

Friday, March 21, 1997


Surf's up. As usual, tomorrow morning will be spent glueing the bow back on the boat


Big boats, old bangers and the Dee Tour


Look at that old-school technique - cringe


Flat water and the kit's the same - getting bored with this

1966 and all that

Not Impressed with the kit - hope things improve

1958 Yes - 5o Years Ahead of the Game

How's that - starting my Blog 50 years ahead of the game!

Can't promise I will keep it up though. Life looks much too interesting

I wonder what a kayak would be like out there?